Although it did not become my 2023 ‘One Word’, there is so much the word Farmer stands for in my life that I felt it deserved a blog. I grew up with tremendous respect for the vocation of the farmer. I had the privilege in one of my job roles to interact with farmers on a consistent basis. Farming is hard work. Farmers work 365 days a year through all kinds of weather, illnesses, additional demands of their time.
A farmer has an unwavering commitment to the harvest. A person whose mission is to cultivate and create the best environment for growth. A person, although independent and self-driven relies on long-lasting relationships with suppliers, partners, investors and especially customers. They are part of a synergistic ecosystem. There is a high level of trust within that ecosystem.
Farming takes time. There’s no shortcut to grow things much faster. The process cannot be accelerated. Nature has its own way. Corn is going to take about 100 days to be ready for harvesting. Drowning the crops with water on day one to expedite the process, ruins any chance for a successful harvest. Patience and discipline are required virtues to grow something great. Ignoring any of the minor details till the due date, then expecting to collect a reward, is foolish. An unexamined or unmaintained field soon becomes unusable due to weeds.
“The day you plant the seed is not the day you eat the fruit.” – Fabienne Fredrickson
I had a simple experience of seeing seeds planted years earlier come to fruition. I was river kayaking with my 20+ year old daughter when we saw a bird and she knew right away it was a kingfisher. I was amazed and asked how she knew what a kingfisher looked like. She responded that growing up we played a card game called Bird Bingo which had a bird for every letter of the alphabet – K was Kingfisher.
There is a Greek Proverb, “A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they shall never sit.” We might not get to harvest the seeds we have sown. However, still be the planter, let someone else be the harvester. My Dad epitomized this principle. He took every opportunity he saw to invest in his family as well as our friends. Small conversations where he asked pointed questions that made emerging young adults think. He missed being here, physically, to sit under some of those trees.
Farmers take what is barren and make it green. Their approach is environmental stewardship and tireless service to the land. A seed when planted in fertile soil, germinates, grows, and it multiplies creating future seeds. Farmers must be adaptable to short-term changes in weather and soil, plus long-term advancements with equipment, technology, methodology, and even market demand on crops. I witnessed a farm ripping out perfectly fine white grape vines to plant hops because of a greater return on investment with the explosion of craft breweries. Equipment, technology, even methodology are always changing and evolving. Successful farmers are willing to learn and adjust.
Recall, my toothpaste analogy? What you put in versus what will come out when squeezed is an ideal fit with the concept of farming. When the farmer wants to harvest grain, he does not plant thistle. Good coaches and leaders must create the proper atmosphere for growth. Inspiring is Farming.
How much time do we spend checking the quality of the soil in our own lives? Are we nurturing the right relationships? Are we removing the weeds? The unexamined life can become broken due to weeds. We need to prep our soil correctly with close advisors ad mentors as cover crops providing natural nutrients; with a broad mind open to new ideas (crop rotations).
Like seeds planted in the ground, thoughts are the starting points. When we provide those thoughts with the proper nutrition and attention, they grow. When we nurture the potential within us, we can reap a marvelous harvest. However, be mindful that fertile soil can also allow weeds to grow if the seeds of more desirable crops are not sown first. The world is constantly working to sow the wrong sort of seed.
Scripture refers to farming, or gardening, often. Adam and Eve worked the garden and are considered the first farmers. In story after story, Jesus used scenes from everyday farm life to illustrate His points about the Gospel and the kingdom of God. This shouldn’t be too surprising. Most of Jesus’ listeners would have been farmers themselves or, at least, very familiar with farming. An interesting note, the reason why many worship services, even today, start at 11 AM was to give farmers time to take care of their morning chores, and then, get to church.
In the Old Testament, Joshua 5, we see the God who wanted his people to farm their new land after he had provided manna in the desert. He supplied the seeds, the fertile Jordan valley, the rain, and the sun. He asked them to tend the farm the same way He asked Adam to tend the Garden.
In Luke’s Gospel (13:18-21) Jesus talks of sowing the mustard seed. In Matthew’s Gospel (13:24-30), Jesus shares the Parable of the Weeds. What I find noteworthy in the Parable of the Weeds that often gets overlooked is the virtue of patience. There is the refusal to allow the separation of the wheat from the weeds while they are still growing. This was a warning to the disciples not to anticipate God’s final judgment. Until then there must be patience and the preaching of repentance. Work the farm.
St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (3:6) has an emphasis on planting and watering between Paul and Apollos, but the difference is the growth provided by God. Bob Goff has a great quote on this subject, “Don’t plant sod where God’s planting seed. He’s more interested in making us grow than having us look finished.”
The life of a farmer is an ideal illustration for how we can live our life. An unwavering commitment to the harvest is living on a path to salvation. We need to cultivate our journey, allowing for God’s grace to guide us.